Another week, another two brilliant guests on The Venture Brief. Today, we are excited to announce the next two episodes with both Benoit Menardo, an amazing entrepreneur in the fintech space, as well Luis Shemtov, a deep tech investor. We hope you will enjoy it as much as we did!
#3 Benoit Menardo — Cofounder of Payflow — Working Alongside Rocket Internet and Why Reading Books is Not Scalable
Benoit Menardo is an engineer who studied at Ecole Des Mines De Paris, MIT, and INSEAD and is a cofounder of Payflow, a Rocket Internet backed company solving the micro-credit crisis. Before cofounding Payflow, he spent 3 years at Bain & Company before deciding to take the exit and do his own thing. Today, Payflow is making fantastic strides and is set to become a real game-changer in the Spanish market.
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Benoit views life as a highway with many exits towards new opportunities. The challenging part is to dare to take the exit from your current comfortable state towards a often risky but perhaps more rewarding opportunity. MBAs are risk-free environments where you can try out new things. In that sense, for Benoit this was his exit from the highway.
Failing at your first startup often sets you up in a much stronger position for your second startup. It is vital that you are able to learn from your mistakes as a first-time founder and come back much more prepared.
The most important thing in a startup is to push as fast as you can towards your first client. It’s extremely important since it offers you a broader insight into what your clients actually need which will enable you to enhance your product/market fit. It’s better to launch and to iterate than to spend 6 months thinking about what may happen instead of building and launching. In the end, it all boils down to getting your hands dirty and making things happen.
If you make a move from the corporate world to starting a venture, you need to put your opportunity cost in perspective. If you wait too long, the cliff is going to be too high. A less risky approach may be to make a shift to an existing startup with funding, where you get hands-on experience on the do’s and don’ts of venture building before starting your own. In summary, you learn more by doing and building either your own or joining another venture in comparison to staying at a corporate for x more years
Having a background in consulting may enable you to have a different perspective, understanding how a CEO thinks and looks at the bigger picture. It also enables you to think further ahead and not work on a day-to-day basis. On that note, it is important to have the ability to look at different levels of perspective, looking at yourself; the day-to-day operations; together with the vision and the long-term roadmap.
If Benoit had been the only cofounder, everyone would happy and nothing would get done since he loves to inspire people to work on what they enjoy. Fortunately, Benoit’s cofounder is more targeted which makes for a perfect dynamic within the company. They serve as a good cop bad cop couple, striking a balance between happiness and operational efficiency and effectiveness.
Working with Rocket Internet delivers a lot of value in terms of recruiting. The brand itself is very powerful and makes a big difference if you want to recruit talent fast. Beyond that, they give you a global network which can get you to your first customers at a faster pace.
For Payflow, the current crisis has been mostly positive. On the one hand, it has shown Payflow’s value from a different angle, and on the other hand, it has forced them to overhaul their entire sales process and adapt. Nevertheless, the crises at hand opens up a previously hard-to-reach talent pool which companies would normally not have been able to afford.
Reading books is not scalable. Talking to people at scale is more valuable since they often read for themselves and try to develop their knowledge base on a continuous basis. This is far more scalable while you talk with people you often discuss the most interesting insights you’ve both gained over the past week. This allows you to get a broader picture of a variety of topics or events in a summarized way.
If you only focus on the future, you are not allowing yourself to enjoy the present. It is very important to be able to reflect on both the present and the past to improve for the future.
#4: Luis Shemtov — Cofounder of Lunar Ventures — on Deep Tech in Europe and the Deceleration of Technology
Luis Shemtov is a cofounder of Lunar Ventures, a Berlin-based seed-stage VC with a focus on technical founders who are building companies at the intersection of DeepTech and software. Before cofounding Lunar Ventures, Luis worked with several startups in Israel and studied at INSEAD and the Hebrew University. Since the launch of its first fund in 2019, Lunar Ventures has made some amazing investments in companies such as Mutable and Mobius.
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The difference between entrepreneurial successes in Israel and Germany is largely attributed to culture and geographical location. Israel is an island, surrounded by countries with whom it has a hard time trading and conversing with (language-wise). Thus, it has adapted and focused its venture building towards startups with solutions that “fit in an envelope,” and which you can sell without having to build factories. Germany on the other hand is widely known for its industrial history and their focus on operation heavy and capital intensive companies.
There is a gap in the Germany/European market relating to technical VCs which led to the creation of Lunar Ventures. Most funds in the European market are generalist with only a single person on the team who has deep technical expertise.
Lunar Ventures’ investment thesis orients itself around things that are being researched within academia and that have been converted into something that is easily usable. Lunar Ventures seeks entrepreneurs who are able to convert those hard-to-implement technologies in an easy way.
Lunar Ventures puts heavy emphasis on what the founders have built and where they are heading, rather than how much sales they have. If a company has a couple of partnership, that does not tell Luis whether their product is good or not, it just tells him whether they know somebody or not.
When one goes on to raise funding they come in with expectations on the target amount, time to raise and from who they want to raise from. It’s notoriously difficult and eventually you’re gonna raise half the money at half the speed, and the people you think are going to back you won’t. A successful fundraise boils down to effective relationship building.
Google, Amazon and Facebook are not technology companies any more, they became utility companies. Their success is fully dependent on their ability to maintain their monopoly positions. In that sense, if VCs were build to invest in internet technologies and instead continue to invest in internet software, these companies start to shift from being technologies to tools and businesses. Read the article here from John Luttig of Founders Fund.
Great VC funds adapt to stay actual. You need to understand that when you become a VC you get into it with an expiration date. To avoid becoming a generalist VC fund, you can change the partners every now and then similar to how Benchmark operates.
A key feature that any successful VC fund should have is communication which is optimized for disagreements. A good relationship among VC partners should enable them to say: you’re really dumb right now, let me tell you why you’re being an idiot. If all partners agreed with each other completely, it would be a big problem.
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